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Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today Magazine

Say ‘yes’ to screening

Selecting the right person for the job can be a time-consuming and complicated process. Katrina Birchall discusses the benefits of conducting pre-employment background checks to ensure you get it right.

Human resources practitioners know just how time-consuming and complicated the process is to get to the point of making a job offer. Some might question, having got to that point, what the benefit would be in conducting pre-employment background checks. I trust that once you review the following information, you will be saying a resounding YES to screening.

This article lists ten very good reasons why you should conduct background checks and how you back yourself and your organisation by doing so. The size of the organisation is irrelevant—best practice applies to all businesses both large and small.

While screening is a cost, it will soon pay off by saving you both time and the headaches that arise from dealing with inappropriate hires of unscreened applicants.


Protects employees and customers in the workplace.
Every employer has a duty of care to their employees, and checking all potential employees backgrounds will serve to protect your existing staff, your customers and your reputation. There are some strange people out there and they have been able to perpetuate their behaviours because previous employers have failed to conduct adequate background checks. They may be sexual predators or a violent criminal who will compromise your workplace safety. Many frauds and thefts could have been avoided had good referencing, criminal and credit background checks been conducted to reveal a burden of debt and mismanagement of personal funds driving the actions of a fraudster.
Reduces staff turnover and saves money.
By conducting background checks, you will reduce turnover by selecting staff who are well suited to the position and a better fit within the organisation. And reducing turnover will, in turn, save money. Who wants to be going through the re-hiring process again and again every few months, and suffering the consequential pain of inappropriate hires.
Provides a clear picture of the candidate.
A background check will provide you with greater clarity around the person you are wanting to hire.
Confirms the honesty and accuracy of the claims applicants make.
Some applicants are Oscar-winning performers when it comes to preparing a CV and attending interviews. You will very quickly find out the truthfulness of their claims when verifying roles, duration of employment, qualifications, and relationships to peers.
Highlights dishonesty.
We all want to hire people we can trust. Some folk make up work history, have friends lie and pretend to be referees, embellish job responsibility and titles or manipulate start and end dates of employment and reasons for leaving. Conducting systematic checks ensures those gaps are revealed in living colour.
Due diligence can save lives and avoid liability.
Criminal and driver checks can reveal the status of demerit points, driving history and driving convictions. In some cases, the drivers need only one more infraction to lose their licence or they may have repeated excess breath alcohol convictions. You will be able to see in a moment when the report is returned, whether this person is going to be an asset or liability to your business.
Verifies education and certification.
New Zealand has had a few well-publicised examples where people in high-profile roles have claimed qualifications that were manufactured. In any role where a qualification is a requirement, it should be checked.
Ensures workplace safety.
Pre-employment drug testing and random drug testing is critical in maintaining a drug-free workplace. Background screening companies can work with clients to have their people arrange drug tests and have the results returned to the screening company.
There are a range of checks that can suit every role.
Regardless of the role, there are a range of checks that will fully reveal all the necessary information you need to obtain to make a balanced decision to hire.
Peace of mind.
This is what it all comes down to. All managers want to choose the best candidates for the position, and a price cannot be placed on the fact that every precaution has been taken for the organisation.

The cost of not screening cannot be understated. I am sure every practitioner will have personally experienced or witnessed the nightmare of a hire gone wrong. Had sufficient background checks been conducted, that nightmare could have been revealed prior to hiring and avoided.

The true nature and deeds of people are revealed in the fullness of time, but it is best that they are revealed before they become your responsibility. The cost of time, effort, legal costs and low morale in the workplace are enormous. We have had clients say that the cost of one inappropriate hire would have funded their entire annual screening programme.

There are some key components for consideration when you are going to introduce background screening:

  • • 
    Review the risks within each of the roles within the organisation.
  • • 
    Review the current costs of negligent hiring.
  • • 
    Establish the baseline checks that you will apply to all roles within the organisation without exception, then add the checks that apply to more specialised roles, eg, full reference checks, and criminal history and pre-employment drug checks for all staff. Then add driver licence and suspension history to all professional drivers. For roles requiring specific qualifications, then also add these to those roles. For areas where specific injuries might occur, review the ACC history for previous and potentially repetitive injuries. For accounting roles with financial responsibility or access to sensitive information, or cash handling, add financial probity checks to view how those people manage their own finances. When recruiting from overseas, remember to conduct international criminal checks from the country of origin or any country where the person might have worked for a year or more. (Criminal history and credit checks are available in most countries in the world). Distance need not be an obstacle or reason to avoid checking.


I trust that the above 10 points have provided some immediately perceived benefits.

When background checks are mandatory across the entire organisation, it quickly becomes standard practice and, in some instances, will dissuade inappropriate people from applying for positions. Those who have been screened pre-employment will have a sense of confidence that they and their peers have been screened to a high standard that sends a positive message to all and re-inforces management’s goal to create a safe workplace.

What does the introduction of pre-employment background screening mean for HR practitioners? The role of conducting the background checks can be easily turned over to a professional background screening company.

Today there are many companies with systems that take over all the effort from HR. And, what’s more, the online systems are so user-friendly to applicants that all information and ID and signatures can be provided online in one sitting. The technology at our disposal means that checks can be completed remotely on a smart phone with ease. The screening company manages the result and HR can access the result online.

The positive result of pre-employment screening is arriving at the situation where you know with full certainly that the person you have selected for the role is the right person, and the claims that they have made about themselves are true. Or, alternatively, NO—thank goodness we checked!

KATRINA BIRCHALL is GM Sales and Marketing Asia Pacific for Employrite Ltd.

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